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Machines Replace Human Flesh in Digging Coal
By ALEX REID. THE introduction o£ coal producing machinery in the large mines thruout the country is rapidly taking place. Many changes result in this system of mining, and incidentally one of the changes is an addition to the ranks of the already large army of unemployed miners. In the southern field of Illinois where natural conditions are good, with solid roof and rock bottoms, machinery has displaced human labor power to a comparatively large degree. With the latest addition of a loading machine which is displacing about 3-1 percent of the miners, the outlook is black, indeed, for the miners. The development and installation of mining machines has kept pace with that in the most mechanicalized indus try and, viewing the large economical mines in southern Illinois, it is hard to figure where any more machinery could be placed. Whereas, prior to the introduction of the loading machine, a miner load ing behind the cutter would earn around $lO per 8-hour day for loading about 12 tons of coal, today with the aid Os the mechanical loader, about twice the amount can be loaded per man, at a flat rate of $8.04 per eight hours, per man. With the introduction of the loader, the system of mining is also being changed and a great saving to the coal baron is the result. Likewise the system is being attempted behind thr cutting machine where the mechanical loader is not in use, whenever physical conditions permit. The machine is now taken to the boundary of the room <St entry, and cut clear down the pillar to the other end of the working place, generally a distance of 350 feet. This system has taken the miners from the ton nage rate to a day rate basis. Prior to this method of mining the leaders received 83 cents per ton. and earned about $9.00 per day, while to day they load about twice the amount of coal in places for $8.04 a day. This method of removing the pillars of tfoal, that'wds formerly left in the mines, between rooms and entries, has given the coal barons twice the amount of coal with approximately the same amount of expense for rails, timber, etc., and resulted 'in great economy to the owners. The miners have suffered from this change in various ways. A few of them follow: Increased production, speeding up by the machine, forcing out of employment the older men who are physically unfit to stand the pace and who are thrown on the scrap heap to starve after a life spent in the mines. Another injury is the comparative reduction of wages, due to the estab lishment of the day rate, and in creased production for that day rate, in comparison to the wages that had been earned for less coal under the tonnage basis. The machines have resulted in the loss of, or the worsening of the work ing conditions of the miner. Truly the miner is becoming more and more a mere object, a slave to the machine. Conditions which have been fought for in many better industrial battles are being ruthlessly destroyed, while the miners receive no aid what ever from their officials to combat the process. The large mines are almost com pletely mechanicalized. It would be hard indeed to find where improve ments could be made. Let us ex amine this process of mechanical in stallation in the mines. The system of pulling off cars of coal on top of the mine gave way to the self-dumping cages, from which the coal was dumped without the cars leaving the cage, and this in turn gave way to the coal being dumped into skips in the bottom, holding 10 or 12 tons and then shot to the tipple by electric hoists. Where coal mines with a production of 3,000 tons were con sidered large 10 years ago, that old rate of production is significant In comparison to the mines which today have productive capacity of 14,000 to 16,000 tons per eight hours. In the shaft bottom, automatic couplers, greasers, spraggers, cugors, tranpers, have displaced human labor power. “I Mean to Get In!” Fred Ellis shows the insistent demand of the Negro workers to obtain their full equality in the trade unions. The labor movement can never be what it should be until the Negro workers enter the unions on an equal basis. Mules have given way to large Gen eral Electric motors, which haul long train-loads of coal from inside switch es to the bottom. The performance of hose large motors are marvelous. In nine No. 9 of the Kincaid, Peabody Coal Co., a schedule is made and ex press speed maintained. Trips of coal weighing hundreds of tons are de livered for hoisting continuously on schedule time In the shaft bottom. Inside at the working places, gather ing motors have displaced mules and horses and continuously deliver coal to the main line motors on time. Hand drilling, like hand pick min ing, has given way to the machine, while the latest addition, the mechan ical loader, has left the miner gasping, wondering what is Igoisg 4o happen next. Complete mechanical operation is as near perfect as It could possibly be in the large coal mines, and some of it is, indeed, wonderful to behold. The foregoing has resulted in in creased production, and greater effi ciency. It has brought decreased cost of production and enormous profits to the coal operators. But what of the workers? Are they to profit none from all the improve Batter Down the Barriers! wJL ■W Ks Ait “ V a' v£**, * B • It It the duty of the white workers to join wtlh the Negro worker# to batter down all restrictions which inter fere with the admission of the black workers into the unions, says Fred Ellis. inents? They are being forced out of the industry in ever increasing num bers. Their wives and families are starving. Many of the miners have a deep and bitter hatred for the machines, which they feel are mostly responsible for their condition. Many of them, no doubt, feel that the remedy lies in the destruction of the machines. The writer only a few weeks ago heard varlons miners discussing that very so-called remedy, and many of them were convinced that the policy of ma chine prevention was sound, for, had not the machine beaten them out of their jobs and caused their little ones to starve? How little removed from that group of angry, bitter Englishmen, congre gated together in England to destroy the textile machinery at the beginning of the .mechanicalizing of the textile Industry! We see those "Englishmen” in the coal miners of today,—many ofc them ready to destroy the machines. John L. Lewis, the international president of the miners, realizes that the change has taken place. He re ferred to the situation a few days ago, and gave as the “remedy” for the 8 horrible condition of the miner, “More machinery, more efficiency, fewer miners, and—continued private owner ship of the industry!” I venture the assertion that Lewis, either ignorant of the most elementary economics, or a deliberate traitor to the miners, if not both (no matter which) has proven himself utterly un fit to lead the miners. The fault is not in the mechanical ization of the mines, but in the private ownership of the machines, John L. Lewis to the contrary, nothwithstand ing. The remedy Is collective ownership of the tools of mining, and their con trol in the hands of the miners. The changing from a-wystem ran for profits to a system for service. The progressive miners of the United Mine Workers of America will not be fooled by this Wall street wail; thru Lewis, the Coolidge campaign com mitteeman, we demand nationalization and democratic control of the mines, and pledge ourselves to never rest un til it Is realized. Subscribe to the Progressive Miner. 50c per year. Address, Alex Reid, Secy., 7020 S. Chicago avenue, Chi cago, Illinois.